An interview with: BRAD KESELOWSKI
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by the man of the hour, Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford for Team Penske.
Brad, walk us through tonight’s race.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it was something. Chase was really, really strong. I was just thinking, Man, I hate I’m going to finish second. I just need a break. The yellow came. It was like, Well, let’s see what we got.
We had kind of lost a race I think or two that way last year. I was like, You know what, we might lose the race this way, but at least we’re going to try.
Thank God we didn’t lose. Thank God it came together. Obviously didn’t have to, but I’m proud that it did. So thankful to finally win this race, to be able to do it with the American flag on Memorial Day weekend with how much it means to me, my family, the foundation I have, the Checkered Flag Foundation. Had Donovan’s name on the car. I know his family was watching. I’m really happy for them. I don’t know if they’re watching this or not. I hope we made you proud, honored Donovan the right way.
I’m pretty tired. It’s a long, hard race. I really wish my wife and the crew could have joined me in Victory Lane. Certainly missed them. Really proud and thankful for the opportunity to run and win races like this.
It’s a major. I think there’s like five majors, at least in my mind. Brickyard, Darlington, of course the Daytona 500, here the Coke 600, the Bristol night race. I kind of think of those as the major races. Now I only got one left. I won the other four. Need to win Daytona 500, the biggest major. Still nice to have four or five checked off.
This was a big one along the way. I feel like I’ve had the shot to win this race probably four or five times. In 2011 I got caught up in a wreck at the very end. I think 2014, loose wheel at the end. Last year we led a bunch of this race, probably were the favorite to win it late, had a loose wheel. Just didn’t come together for whatever reason.
But today it came together and I’m super, super thankful. Just hope we can do it again. I hope everybody that watched enjoyed it and remembers the reason why we get to do great things like this.
I guess I should stop talking. Just a real special day for me.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions.
Q. You had Jimmie next to you on the restart. Are you cognizant there’s a guy next to you who hasn’t won in 101 races?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I didn’t really think about that. I just thought about getting the best launch I could get. Coming up in front of him down the backstretch, once we were clear, getting draft, that push, it all came together.
Obviously last restart on old tires is never easy. We made it happen today and I’m very thankful.
Q. How much for the restarts did lane choice matter versus who was pushing from behind?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think it was the launch and the push more so than the lanes. You just need all the help you can get to get going. I got a good push there. I don’t know who it was behind me. I think it was maybe the 88. That was certainly very helpful. So thanks to him.
Man, these races are so crazy. The race kind of started out single file, you couldn’t make anything happen. Then about last hundred or so laps, the PJ1 started to come in, turned into a two groove racetrack. I thought it got really racy. Chase was super strong, passed me for the lead, I thought, Oh, God. I got so loose at the end, I was just holding on. It was like, Oh, I can’t believe we’re going to get this close. Blistered my hand I was on the wheel so hard. At the end we caught a break, made the most of the break.
Life is just as much about catching the breaks as it is making the most of them. Today we did both. We made the most of the events that happened to us.
Q. Why did you choose to restart on the inside? If you started on the outside, you would have Blaney. You got a great push from Bowman. And when you see Chase pull off there, you know you’re going to stay out, what goes through your mind in that moment?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think first off I felt confident that if I took the bottom with Blaney up there that he would have an opportunity to take it three wide, slow that lane down. If you take the outside, you risk that happening to you. I didn’t want that to happen.
It’s a little bit like a game of blackjack where you count cards there. You’re thinking to yourself, when Chase pulled off, I think we made the right move. How many cars stayed out behind us? I think I heard it was like six or seven that stayed out behind us. I knew it would be really hard for him to pass all those cars in two laps.
I felt pretty good about it. It was just going to come down to the 48 and I.
Q. You’re a free agent. Most business had come to a halt during the season suspension. Do you think this win gives you some added value? Do you think you cheered up Roger Penske’s day?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I know winning never hurts. I wish I had more news, but I don’t. So, yeah, winning is not a bad thing. I hope to continue to compete at a very high level and be able to win races for a long time.
Obviously I have a very good team right now. I don’t know where we’re sitting at in points after today. I would think it’s probably in the top five or six.
We’ve got a race win at a major on a team that’s really just starting to click together. This team has a lot of potential. My goodness, on pit road today, they were on fire. They put us in a spot to win.
I hope that I get to take and make something of that for years to come. But it’s not all up to me. A lot of things have to come together, whether it’s sponsors or whatnot, management things. That hasn’t happened yet. I hope it does because this is my 30th win at the Cup level with Team Penske. That’s pretty special. I think I got another 30 left in me. I’d like to have the chance at that.
Q. Simon won on this day last year, got an extension. Do you think winning on Memorial Day does anything to please Roger?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I think that’s probably one of the biggest days for him. Maybe here and Daytona. You know what, I hope everything goes well and we can figure all that out.
Q. What did you think about Chase Elliott’s decision in the final laps to make that pit stop?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I remember somebody told me when I was younger, Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Just a tough spot to be in. I’ve been in that spot, lost races that way. It stinks. It hurts. But it comes the other way. Taken a lot of years for it to come that way for me. Finally today it did. I’m thankful for that.
I also recognize that Chase was really fast today. Probably if it had been just a raw speed race he would have won. Life is not always fair like that both ways. You just try to take advantage of it when it’s on your side.
Q. Where do you feel you stack up with the Hendrick cars?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, they were just a touch better, but we weren’t far off. I think this is as close or the closest we’ve been to them. But we still have a little bit of work to do. We need to keep iterating, getting faster.
They seem to be a little faster than what we do in dirty air. In clean air we’re close to them, maybe even a touch faster. In dirty air they seem to be just a little bit faster. I think we have a little bit of work to do.
We can do it. We just have to put our head down and stay focused on it.
Q. You said the PJ1 didn’t come till the latter half of the race. Wednesday night, shorter race, you’re starting 20th, what is it going to be like with the inversion?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I’d like for it to come in faster. Hopefully with having the trucks and Xfinity cars, maybe it will. Really depends on how they approach the reapplication.
Q. What were your emotions like getting out of the car? Empty stands…
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, just like kind of bummed. Like, man, I wanted to win the 600 my whole life. I wish it was in front of everybody. I recognize that’s not always how it works.
I’m just thankful for the win. I’m trying not to get too caught up in all the peripherals. But it would have been nice to have my family and the fans here, Donovan’s family. I wish they could have been in Victory Lane with me.
I think it’s easy to get caught up in the things that didn’t happen and forget how blessed we are to be here with what’s going on in the world, how hard Marcus Smith and his team have worked to make this event possible, along with everybody at NASCAR. We’re one of the only major sports even going right now. That’s no easy feat.
I’m thankful for those that work their tail off to figure out a way to do it. I think I said this a few weeks ago, it would have been easy to just kind of cower and wait. I know there’s a lot of fans wish they could be in the stands today, maybe don’t understand it all. It’s not all in our hands. There’s a lot of government people and so forth that are kind of pacing it. To that end we’re doing the best we can to make sure we get some racing in, can entertain some folks and show them the world will go on.
Q. I know how much it means to you to give back to those who served, to win on a special weekend, Memorial Day. Does it add anything extra to win on Memorial Day weekend?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, absolutely. It’s a special day. Memorial Day is racing. In a lot of ways, racing was founded by those who served, NASCAR specifically. So there will always be a close connection. We try to make the most of it.
I think our fans are very patriotic. A lot of them come from backgrounds where maybe they served, their family served. I just try to do the best I can to honor that, recognize that there’s a lot going on in the world bigger than racing. I’m proud that we get to do what we get to do, whether there’s a pandemic or not.
Part of what makes that possibility is those that served, are willing to give their lives. I think they’re pretty awesome people.
THE MODERATOR: Brad, thanks for taking the time. Congratulations on the win. Good luck Wednesday.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thanks, all. Take care.
— NASCAR —